Recently in the Propulsion Category

Windbots In the Skies of Jupiter

Among designers of robotic probes to explore the planets, there is certainly no shortage of clever ideas. There are concepts for robots that are propelled by waves in the sea.

Engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center are advancing the propulsion system that will propel the first ever mission to redirect an asteroid for astronauts to explore in the 2020s.

It's tricky to get a spacecraft to land exactly where you want. That's why the area where the Mars rover Curiosity team had targeted to land was an ellipse that may seem large, measuring 12 miles by 4 miles (20 by 7 kilometers).

Effective October 1st, Y.K. Bae Corporation has been awarded $500,000 from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase 2 program to further develop the company's innovative Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) technology. This two year research and development phase will result in a scaled-up laboratory demonstration of PLT propulsion with space qualified lasers in a vacuum environment.

Nanosatellites are smartphone-sized spacecraft that can perform simple, yet valuable, space missions. Dozens of these little vehicles are now tirelessly orbiting the earth performing valuable functions for NASA, the Department of Defense and even private companies.

Morpheus Tether Test 24

This is the 24th tether test of the Morpheus Vehicle. This test was performed with the "Bravo" version of the vehicle and tested some of the new backup systems. There are two firings in this test, the first firing was soft aborted. This was caused by an imbalance in the fuel load which caused the vehicle to exceed it's tight safety zone. The 2nd firing was a complete success.

Kerry Ellis: Future human space exploration will mean getting beyond low-Earth orbit--and returning safely. Several projects across NASA are working on the challenges that goal presents, among them propulsion alternatives and guidance, navigation, and control. Three years ago, Project Morpheus and the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology project, or ALHAT, began collaborating on advances in these areas.

Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program

Few people know this but NASA actually has a warp drive program underway at Johnson Space Center. A recent article on the program created some open-ended questions that needed to be answered. The article seemed to imply that Harold White (who heads the project) had signed non-disclosure agreements such that he could not discuss public-funded research. That's a little unusual for NASA. So I sent a series of questions to Harold White and NASA PAO.

Warp Drive Research at NASA JSC

"This paper will begin with a short review of the Alcubierre warp drive metric and describes how the phenomenon might work based on the original paper. The canonical form of the metric was developed and published in [6] which provided key insight into the field potential and boost for the field which remedied a critical paradox in the original Alcubierre concept of operations. A modified concept of operations based on the canonical form of the metric that remedies the paradox is presented and discussed. The idea of a warp drive in higher dimensional space-time (manifold) will then be briefly considered by comparing the null-like geodesics of the Alcubierre metric to the Chung-Freese metric to illustrate the mathematical role of hyperspace coordinates. The net effect of using a warp drive "technology" coupled with conventional propulsion systems on an exploration mission will be discussed using the nomenclature of early mission planning. Finally, an overview of the warp field interferometer test bed being implemented in the Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory: Eagleworks (APPL:E) at the Johnson Space Center will be detailed. While warp field mechanics has not had a "Chicago Pile" moment, the tools necessary to detect a modest instance of the phenomenon are near at hand." More

XCOR Aerospace Hits Route 66 With Experimental Motorcycle

"XCOR's innovative piston pump technology took a ride from Roswell, NM to Mojave, CA in April 2012. "We debated how best to put many hours of wear time on the critical bearing components of our rocket propellant piston pump, that are subject to significant wear and tear," said Dan DeLong, XCOR Chief Engineer. "This particular motorcycle, the Triumph Street Triple, develops about the same horsepower and has the same cylinder arrangement as the liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel pumps for the Lynx suborbital spacecraft. That makes it ideal for a long-life pump test platform. The bike is much less expensive to operate than the full up rocket pump test stand. We're adding hours of run time each ride, not just minutes."

NASA has selected four companies to develop concepts for storing and transferring cryogenic propellants in space. These capabilities are important for the agency's future deep space human exploration missions.

The awards total approximately $2.4 million with a maximum individual contract award of $600,000. Each company will provide a final report to help define a mission concept to demonstrate the cryogenic fluid management technologies, capabilities and infrastructure required for sustainable, affordable human presence in space.

NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals for mission concept studies of a solar electric propulsion system demonstration to test and validate key capabilities and technologies for future exploration missions. Multiple studies have shown the advantages of using solar electric propulsion to efficiently transport heavy payloads from low Earth orbit to higher orbits. This concept enables the delivery of payloads to low Earth orbit via conventional chemical rockets. The use of solar electric propulsion could then spiral payloads out to higher energy orbits, including Lagrange point one, a potential assembly point in space between Earth and the moon. This approach could facilitate missions to near Earth asteroids and other destinations in deep space.

DARPA is seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle in support of the 100 Year StarshipTM Study. The 100 Year StarshipTM Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider "why not" and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight. DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to NASA, and well as the private and commercial sector.